Close up of two people holding coffee cups at the table

Coffee and Anxiety: What You Need to Know  

Everyone who’s had one too many cups of coffee in the morning knows the sensation: that brain-buzzing, eyes-wide-open, heart-pounding, jittery feeling. Being over-caffeinated can make your body feel off – but what is it doing to your anxiety?  

Caffeine can mimic symptoms of anxiety, which means coffee in the morning could hurt more than help if you drink too much. Caffeine is a psychostimulant that impacts the central nervous system. While there are helpful side effects to consuming caffeine, too much can result in: 

  • Anxiousness  
  • Fast heart rate  
  • Feelings of unhappiness  
  • Headache  
  • Insomnia  
  • Jitters 
  • Nausea  
  • Upset stomach  

It’s important to note that feelings of anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder are different. While general anxiety occurs as your body reacts to everyday stress, generalized anxiety disorder is diagnosed by a professional when you have chronic anxiety without triggers and consistently feel worried or stressed. 

So how much is too much caffeine? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises adults can consume 400 milligrams of caffeine a day without being too at risk for negative effects. That’s about four to five cups of coffee. But people metabolize caffeine at different rates, and some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others.  

Here’s how much caffeine is in some common beverages, according to the Mayo Clinic 

Beverage  Size in oz  Caffeine in mg 
Brewed coffee  8  96 
Brewed decaf coffee  8  2 
Espresso  1  64 
Brewed green tea  8  28 
Pop – dark colas  8  22 
Energy drink  8  29 

If you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant or are breastfeeding, talk to your health care provider about how much caffeine is safe to consume. Certain medications or conditions may also be sensitive to caffeine intake, so it’s important to consult your health care provider.  

It typically takes four to six hours for the body to break down and process half of the caffeine you consume. Which is why consuming caffeine at lunch time or in the afternoon can affect your ability to fall asleep at night.  

If you are concerned about your feelings of anxiety, a health care professional may be able to provide some insight as to whether caffeine consumption could be a culprit.  

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